With its new exhibition, Dale Chihuly: Glass in Bloom, Singapore’s iconic gardens now offer something else to marvel at besides the beauty of nature. Running through 1 August 2021, the showcase is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience world-class art beyond the confines of a gallery. It’s also the first time Dale Chihuly is holding a major garden exhibition in Asia — and the only time you’ll see so many of his iconic works here in Singapore.
It goes without saying that you won’t want to miss this exhibition. Think of the sense of joy and wonder you felt when exploring Yayoi Kusama’s retrospective here a few years ago; that’s exactly what you’ll experience as you behold Dale Chihuly’s equally vibrant artworks for the first time.
It’s not just because they’re made of glass, which is incredibly fragile. (Netflix’s Blown Away shows how laborious the medium can be to work with.) Dale Chihuly’s creations actually look like the work of nature, taking on organic forms like onion bulbs and curling tendrils. Aptly, the American artist has often showcased his works in botanical settings, most notably London’s Kew Gardens. His new exhibition marks the first time his environmental installations have ever been planted in our very own Gardens by the Bay.
You’ll get to see the whole spectrum of Dale Chihuly’s colourful works. At the Dragonfly and Kingfisher lakes, both open to the public, you’ll find his Float Boat, comprising a rowboat filled with glass orbs that look like candy. Some of them even bob along the water. If you walk a little further down, you’ll encounter the Walla Wallas — a nod to the eponymous sweet onions from Dale Chihuly’s native Washington.
Step into the Serene Garden and you’ll discover that its lush greenery has been interrupted by bold strokes of colour. There are installations of Herons and Reeds, the latter referring to glass tubes jutting out of rocks and grass and reaching up to three metres high. What really makes the zen garden worth the trip, though, is the Ethereal White Persians installation over the pond. It’s one of Dale Chihuly’s newest works, having only debuted at the Kew Gardens in 2019. It’s also one of his most magical, with its resemblance to angel wings or something similarly divine.
The exhibition takes on another celestial note at The Meadow nearby, which provides the perfect backdrop for Setting Sun and Moon. The former is a big, blazing fireball made up of over 1,600 pieces of glass tentacles. It was especially made for Singapore in tropical reds and yellows, but it also complements (or eclipses) The Moon just opposite. The latter, a massive orb comprising hundreds of blown glass discs, hasn’t been showcased for 21 years. Now, you’ll get to appreciate it in all its mystical glory.
Of course, the main attraction for most visitors will be the chilled conservatories, which houses Dale Chihuly’s magnificent Towers and Chandeliers. The Flower Dome has a particularly beautiful display of the White Tower, accompanied by Erbium Reeds and Trumpet Flowers (Chihuly’s creations) and a bed of roses (nature’s own).
Over at the Cloud Forest, you’ll be even more impressed by Cloud Forest Persians, stretching almost 10 metres long and suspended by a waterfall. That’s something you don’t see everyday; in fact, this particular piece was last shown at the Kew Gardens in 2019 (sans waterfall).
Still, we’re just barely scratching at the surface of the over 100 wondrous works that can now be seen at Gardens by the Bay. The exhibition extends to a special Glass In Bloom gallery, where you can examine Dale Chihuly’s Macchia and Basket sculptures, as well as his glass paintings, up close. There’s also a dedicated gift shop where you can purchase some of the artist’s smaller glass works (useful for sprucing up your home), or merchandise like umbrellas and tiffin carriers that are inspired by his art.
And did we mention that his glass sculptures look completely different at night, when they are lit up?
Dale Chihuly: Glass in Bloom is certainly an exhibition worth making several trips for — and not just to see it at different times of the day. If you’re feeling particularly inspired, you can also try your hand at glass fusing or creating glass pebble art; both are on the exhibition’s line-up of family-friendly craft workshops and activities for all to enjoy. In the months to come, the exhibition will also unveil a virtual experience that will bring Dale Chihuly’s artworks to life through VR.
Gardens by the Bay provides a unique landscape for Dale Chihuly’s artworks, with all their fascinating forms and burst of colours. Even if his iconic installations are shown elsewhere in future (and they no doubt will be, given the artist’s success), they won’t quite recreate the experience of what you see here in Singapore. That’s part of the magic of the exhibition.
“Dale Chihuly: Glass in Bloom” runs until 1 August 2021 at Gardens by the Bay. Be sure to follow the visiting guidelines and safe distancing measures during your visit. Get your tickets here.
Header photo credit: Dale Chihuly, Ethereal White Persians, 2018. Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, installed 2021 © Chihuly Studio. Photo by Nathaniel Willson. © Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved.